You gently stroke your cat’s fur as he is curled up on your lap. But with just a few strokes, you feel little specks of what looks and feels like dirt. That is flea dirt, to be exact.
How to Get Rid of Flea Dirt on Cats?
You get rid of flea dirt on a cat by bathing it using a shampoo specially designed to kill fleas and ticks.
But before you bathe your feline with this type of shampoo, you will need to consult your vet first. This is especially true if your cat is currently being treated for a flea infestation. The shampoo might minimize the effectiveness of the medication used for treating a flea infestation.
But beyond getting rid of flea dirt, you will also need to tackle the root cause of the problem – fleas.
What is flea dirt?
Flea dirt is literally flea poop.
Fleas feed on your pet’s blood. And after an animal feeds, it must eliminate waste from its body. Flea dirt consists mostly of your cat’s blood as well as a few other elements.
When fleas feed on your pet’s blood, the blood goes through the insects’ system and then is eliminated along with other elements as flea fecal matter.
Usually, flea dirt has a dark, often black appearance. You can find it scattered as flecks on your pet’s fur or as clumps.
But how do you distinguish between regular dirt and flea dirt?
First, take a pinch of what you suspect to be flea dirt and then get it wet. Afterward, find a white surface and then wipe the specks on it. You will know that it is flea dirt if you see red streaks on the surface.
Flea dirt can be found in practically all parts of your cat’s body. However, the greatest concentration of flea dirt will be around your pet’s stomach, his tail, and his behind. You can also find a large amount of flea dirt near the groin and hind legs.
Rarely you will find flea dirt around your pet’s head and neck because fleas usually avoid those areas.
Apart from your pet’s fur, you might also see flea dirt in the areas that your cat frequents, like floor, bedding, and shelves.
Flea dirt vs. cat acne
Cat or feline acne and flea dirt can look the same: tiny black specks.
But if flea dirt is caused by a flea infestation, feline acne has multiple causes. Among the leading causes of cat acne are bacteria, stress, and allergens from the environment.
Feline acne is usually found on a cat’s chin. Sometimes, you will notice red or white pustules on the chin, just like acne on humans.
Feline acne is fairly easy to treat. However, your cat can constantly succumb to this condition if you do not eliminate the underlying cause. Usually, cat acne is caused either by bacteria or allergens in the environment.
After treating the acne, you should make sure that your home is clean. Vacuum your home regularly and wash his bedding from time to time.
Usually, allergies are caused by mold, dust, and pollen. However, some cats are allergic to plastic bowls because these are prone to bacterial buildup. As such, change your cat’s bowl to one that is made of either ceramic or steel.
Avoid spraying perfume and hair products when you are near your cat. As much as possible, avoid using cleaning solutions that have synthetic chemicals around your home. Your cat may be allergic to the synthetic chemicals found in these products.
Flea dirt is a sign of infestation
Occasionally, you might find fleas on your pet, along with flea dirt. But this is not always the case. You might find flea dirt but not fleas on your cat.
One reason behind this is that fleas do not live on your cat’s fur. These insects will scurry away to their hiding spots right after getting their fill of your pet’s blood.
You will also need to factor in the fact that cats are fastidious creatures. You might not be able to see fleas on your cat’s body because these insects have been licked off and swallowed by your cat while grooming himself.
Flea dirt is just one sign of a flea infestation. And getting rid of flea dirt will not necessarily solve your flea problem.
Apart from flea dirt, there are other signs that you can watch out for. These include:
- Hair loss
- Excessive scratching and biting
- Scabs and patches of red skin
- Skin and ear infections.
Eliminating fleas from your home
It should go without saying that if you spot flea dirt on your cat, you have a flea infestation at hand. Although it is possible that you do not see fleas on your pet, that does not necessarily mean that your cat is already safe from these pests.
Removing fleas from your home is critical for a few important reasons.
For starters, fleas cause flea allergy dermatitis or FAD. When a flea bites into your cat’s skin, it leaves some saliva. In turn, flea saliva causes severe itching.
Fleas can also cause anemia, especially if the infestation is severe. Among the signs of anemia in cats are lethargy and pale gums.
Although the risk of human harm from flea dirt is low, the bigger issue at hand is that fleas can make people sick. Fleas usually target the four-legged members of a household but it is not unusual for these pests to latch on to people. Furthermore, fleas can transmit some diseases to people.
Treating a flea infestation requires a four-prong approach.
- First, you need to eliminate the adult fleas infesting your cat.
- Next, you need to prevent a new batch of adult fleas from infesting your cat again.
- Third, you must prevent flea eggs and larvae from getting into the next stage of development.
- Finally, you should clean your home and yard to remove any remaining adult fleas as well as eggs and larvae.
To achieve these goals, you will need to treat your cat with the appropriate medication designed to kill fleas in various stages of development, from eggs to adults.
Once you have dealt with the fleas that are currently infesting your cat, you can turn your attention to the flea eggs and larvae. Flea eggs can take weeks to hatch and infest an environment. Flea eggs can exist in an area for several months if left undisturbed.
The best way to deal with eggs and larvae is to use an insect growth regulator which prevents eggs from hatching and larvae from maturing into adults.
The final stage of treating a flea infestation is prevention. There are a few things that you can do to prevent future infestations.
First, you need to keep your home clean. Vacuum your home regularly, paying close attention to the areas your cat frequents.
Make it a habit to wash your cat’s bedding, blanket, and other things that have fabric. Ideally, you should wash these with hot water.
Fleas can live outdoors, preferring shady spots. As such, you should also pay close attention to the cleanliness of your yard. Mow your lawn regularly and bag leaves and clippings.
For non-washable items like rugs and mats, you can hang these outdoors under direct sun.
Take flea dirt seriously
Flea dirt is relatively easy to remove. However, the bigger problem at hand is flea infestation that requires prompt action. Both are tied to one another and you cannot solve one and ignore the other.
Image: istockphoto.com / Konstantin Aksenov